Eagles Looking for Potent Combo at Tight End
In Brent Celek's six seasons as a Eagle, he's posted 280 catches, 3,473 yards and 20 touchdowns - but the Eagles felt they needed more.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly says he plans to use Celek, second-round pick Zach Ertz and free agent pick-up James Casey on game days.
While Celek still seems to have some left in the tank, Kelly surely sees the value of the tight end position. Tight end is one of the positions the Eagles are hoping to get more productivity from this season. Behind Celek the last few seasons, tight end was unquestionably the shallow end of the talent pool.
Last year, Celek was the only tight end on the Eagles' roster who has ever caught more then 35 passes in a season. This season he won't be the only capable tight end on the roster, as the Eagles targeted that position during a busy offseason.
There's one guy missing from that equation though: Clay Harbor. Philadelphia's fourth-round pick in 2010, he was someone who was an athletic and multi-faceted tight end, inconsistent but undeniably talented, but the injury he suffered to his back last season knocked him out for the year and put a serious crimp in Philly's plans for him.
This team has been trying to field a potent combination punch at tight end for years now. The Eagles drafted Harbor three years ago from with the intention of pairing him with Celek, but Harbor didn't seem to catch on to the NFL game right away. The team also reached on Florida tight end, Cornelius Ingram in the 2009 draft. Ingram tore his anterior cruciate ligament during Philadelphia's training camp in 2009. This was the same injury that kept Ingram from playing his senior season at Florida - he would never play for the Eagles.
This year, there's more expectation at tight end.
James Casey signed a three-year, $14.5 million contract, and posted career highs in catches (34), yards (330), and touchdowns (3) last season despite being used incorrectly by the Texans' coaching staff. Casey was often asked to play fullback in Houston, but he is a natural tight end and terrific pass catcher at 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds.
Second-round pick Zach Ertz is described as a mismatch creator in the passing game. Ertz is a fluid athlete and legit intermediate to deep weapon who regularly burned defenses on deep-out routes. The Eagles will have to work with Ertz on his blocking, but he should be a big asset in the passing game right away.
There's still some intriguing uncertainty about Harbor, who converted to linebacker during mini-camp and then came back to tight end. Derek Carrier. rounds out the training-camp roster at the position that might have the most depth on the season, the three-sport star clocked a 4.49 forty while posting a 40-inch vertical at 6'3/238 in what was described as a "great workout" at his pro day.
Celek looked like a breakout player in 2009, a player the Eagles drafted in the fifth-round, caught 76 passes, 971 yards and eight touchdowns that season. Since then, Celek's role has changed, in 2010 it called for him to help more in pass protection. In 2011, he became Mike Vick's favorite target, but seemed to show more inconsistency in 2012 - dropping from 811 yards and five touchdowns, down to 684 and one score.
Ertz could be the biggest weapon at tight end on the depth chart, he plays faster on tape than the forty time indicates. What's he like as a blocker, though? That remains to be seen, and it will determine whether Ertz is a third tight end used primarily as a deep threat or someone who could be the No. 2 tight end on the roster.
Casey is the most versatile tight end on the depth chart, Casey adds a nice movable piece to the offense. A fifth-round pick out of Rice in 2009, Casey finished the season with career-highs in catches (34), yards (330), and touchdowns (three), while also working as Arian Foster's lead blocker at times.